Five things to know about 'A Very Grammy Christmas'

Five things we learned from sitting through 'A Very Grammy Christmas'

It's the time of year for holiday cheer … and Grammy nominations.

Traditionally the Recording Academy has revealed which artists were nice (or naughty) enough to make the cut through a prime-time concert special. This time, things were different – sort of. Nominees were revealed in various ways Friday morning with the exception of album of the year, which will be revealed on “A Very Grammy Christmas,” which airs tonight on the West Coast at 9 p.m. on CBS.

The hour-long special paired holiday music and hits from Ariana Grande, Mary J. Blige, Pharrell, Tim McGraw, Sam Smith and Maroon 5. “What we wanted to do is add a twist,” Grammys longtime executive producer Ken Ehrlich told the crowd at the Shrine Auditorium ahead of the taping. “And everyone loves Christmas specials.”

Pop & Hiss was on hand for the taping of the show at the Shrine Auditorium last month and here’s five things you should know.

1. Christmas actually came early for most nominees. Friday’s special bookends a day packed with Grammy action. The first batch of categories was announced on "CBS This Morning" and nods were also unveiled through Twitter throughout the day before the full list of nominees, with the exception of album, was posted on the Grammy site. Think of this show as the final breadcrumb.

2. Hits overpowered holiday music. Despite host LL Cool J proclaiming that Grammys and Christmas “go together like comfort and joy,” festive tunes took a backseat to artists revisiting their own hits. Mary J. Blige, who issued a holiday album last year, previewed her new London-themed record and dusted off her signature take of U2’s “One,” while Tim McGraw revisited his powerful hit "Live Like You Were Dying." Only Ariana Grande, Pharrell and Maroon 5 balanced the album-plugging with the night’s theme.

GRAMMY NOMINATIONS 2015: Top Nominees | Complete List | Show Highlights | Full Coverage

3. The audience didn’t get it all. TV tapings are always a laborious effort for everyone involved. But the payoff, usually, is seeing the action that doesn’t make it to broadcast. That didn't happen here. Although the crowd knew there'd be no early glimpse of the album of the year contenders, ticketbuyers didn’t know they wouldn’t get to see every performer or the interview segments. At one point Ehrlich revealed to the crowd that one segment, featuring a performance from Sam Smith, wouldn't be taped that night, and the disappointment was palpable after the two-hour taping. 

4. Ariana Grande and Pharrell Williams really got into the spirit. Grande debuted her bouncy “Santa Tell Me” as dancers wrapped Grammys in front of a faux fireplace -- she even dressed like a sexy snowflake (but missed a great opportunity to wear reindeer antlers on her head, given her recent fondness for cat ears). Williams, who has performed on virtually every music telecast this year, did a groovier version of the Charles Brown classic “Please Come Home for Christmas” while wearing an adorable holiday sweater and, yes, a wide-brimmed hat.

But a lump of coal goes to Maroon 5, who bombed a take on John Lennon’s poignant “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” during the taping – a surprise given the band has nailed the number in the past.

5. No “Frozen.” The night’s greatest missed opportunity? Giving the crowd anything from “Frozen.” While the inescapable “Let It Go” was a surprise shutout from the major song categories despite its standing as the biggest-selling disc of 2014, it really should have gotten some play given the holiday theme. The crowd, which was mostly filled with families, would have certainly got a kick out of "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?"

The 57th Annual Grammy Awards will air live from Staples Center on Feb. 8.

Follow me @GerrickKennedy

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